A good year was upgraded to a great year for Steve Stricker, who on Monday won the Regions Tradition, the first major championship win of his career.
Stricker, 52, took a two-stroke lead into the weather-delayed final round and buried the field at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., winning by six.
“This is special,” an emotional Stricker said. “Never was able to win one of these on the regular tour. It means a lot. You work hard, try to do the right things, work on my game, and come out here hoping to play well, hoping to win.
“It’s tough out here. These guys play well. I feel more pressure out here at times to perform than I do on the regular tour. I think that’s because I put a lot of expectations on myself out here. It’s hard. To finally get this one means a lot.”
Earlier this year, Stricker, Wisconsin’s favorite son, was appointed captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2020 competition, scheduled to be played at Wisconsin’s own Whistling Straits.
“Truly, truly, a dream come true,” he said then.
For a time, Stricker was not certain it was going to happen, notwithstanding the PGA of America having suggested otherwise. The U.S. had never before selected a captain who had not won a major championship.
Stricker on Monday eliminated that void from his resume, albeit via a major on the PGA Tour Champions. Whatever the tour, it was an impressive performance for Stricker. It began with consecutive birdies on the third and fourth holes to increase his lead to four and from there it was a long victory lap that at one time included a lead of seven.
He shot a bogey-free four-under par 68 to complete 54 holes in 18-under 270. Paul Goydos, Billy Andrade and David Toms tied for second at 276.
None of the trio of players tied for second through 54 holes — Bernhard Langer, Toms and Andrade — was able to mount a threat.
Surprisingly, Langer, a winner of 10 senior majors, including two in this event, stumbled to a three-over 75 and tied for sixth. Toms and Andrade each shot an even-par 72.
It was only the fourth senior victory for Stricker, who continues to split time between the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions. Following Monday’s round, he was headed to New York, where he will play in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on an invitation from the PGA of America as a result of his Ryder Cup captaincy.
The week after, he’ll play either in his third straight major, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., or the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.